By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | DOC | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

John Calvin's Treatise on Relics with Notes by the Translator.
Author: John Calvin
Language: English

St Augustinus complains, in his work entitled “The Labor of Monks,” that certain people were,
even in his time, exercising a dishonest trade, hawking about relics of martyrs, and he adds the
following significant words, “should they really be relics of martyrs,” from which we may infer,
that even then abuses and deceits were practiced, by making simple folks believe that bones,
picked up any where, were bones of saints. Since the origin of this abuse is so ancient, there can
be no doubt that it has greatly increased during a long interval of years, particularly as the world
has been much corrupted since that age, and has continued to deteriorate until it has arrived at its
present condition.

Now, the origin and root of this evil, has been, that, instead of discerning Jesus Christ in his
Word, his Sacraments, and his Spiritual Graces, the world has, according to its ‘custom, amused
itself with his clothes, shirts, and sheets, leaving thus the principal to follow the accessory.

It did the same thing with the apostles, martyrs, and other saints, and, instead of observing their
lives in order to imitate their examples, it directed all its attention to the preservation and
admiration of their bones, shirts, sashes, caps, and other similar trash.

I know well that there is a certain appearance of real devotion and zeal in the allegation, that the
relics of Jesus Christ are preserved on account of the honor which is rendered to him, and in
order the better to preserve his memory. But it is necessary to consider what St Paul says, that
every service of God invented by man, whatever appearance of wisdom it may have, is nothing
better than vanity and foolishness, if it has no other foundation than our own devising. Moreover,
it is necessary to set the profit derived from it against the dangers with which it is fraught, and it
will thus be found that, to have relics is a useless and frivolous thing, which will most probably
gradually lead towards idolatry, because they cannot be handled and looked upon without being
honored, and in doing this men will very soon render them the honor which is due to Jesus
Christ. In short, the desire for relics is never without superstition, and what is worse, it is usually
the parent of idolatry. Every one admits that the reason why our Lord concealed the body of
Moses, was that the people of Israel should not be guilty of it. Now, we may conclude that the act
to be avoided with regard to the body of Moses must be equally shunned with regard to the
bodies of all other saints, and for the same reason — because it is sin. But let us leave the saints,
and consider what St Paul says of Jesus Christ himself, for he protests that he knew him not
according to the flesh, but only after his resurrection, signifying by these words, that all that is
carnal in Jesus Christ must be forgotten and put aside, and that we should employ and direct our
whole affections to seek and possess him according to the spirit. Consequently the pretense that it
is a good thing to have some memorials either of himself or of the saints, to stimulate our piety,
is nothing but a cloak for indulging our foolish cravings which have no reasonable foundation;
and should even this reason appear insufficient, it is openly repugnant to what the Holy Ghost
has declared by the mouth of St Paul, and what can be said more?

It is of no use to discuss the point whether it is right or wrong to have relics merely to keep them
as precious objects without worshipping them, because experience proves that this is never the

It is true that St Ambrose, in speaking of Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine the
Great, who sought with great trouble and expense for the cross of our Lord, says that she did not
worship the wood, but the Lord who was suspended upon it. But it is a very rare thing, that a
heart disposed to value any relics whatever should not become to a certain degree polluted by
some superstition.

I admit that people do not arrive at once at open idolatry, but they gradually advance from one
abuse to another until they fall into this extremity, and, indeed, those who call themselves
Christians have, in this respect, idolatrized as much as Pagans ever did. They have prostrated
themselves, and knelt before relics, just as if they were worshipping God; they have burnt candles
before them in sign of homage; they have placed their confidence in them, and have prayed to
them, as if the virtue and the grace of God had entered into them. Now, if idolatry be nothing else
than the transfer elsewhere of the honor which is due to God, can it be denied that this is
idolatry? This cannot be excused by pretending that it was only the improper zeal of some idiots
or foolish women, for it was a general custom approved by those who had the government of the
church, and who had even placed the bones of the dead and other relics on the high altar, in the
greatest and most prominent places, in order that they should be worshipped with more certainty.

It is thus that the foolish fancy which people had at first for collecting relics, ended in this open
abomination, — they not only turned from God, in order to amuse themselves with vain and
corruptible things, but even went on to the execrable sacrilege of worshipping dead and
insensible creatures, instead of the one living God. Now, as one evil never comes alone but is
always followed by another, it thus happened that where people were seeking for relics, either of
Jesus Christ or the saints, they became so blind that whatever name was imposed upon any
rubbish presented to them, they received it without any examination or judgment; thus the bones
of an ass or dog, which any hawker gave out to be the bones of a martyr, were devoutly received
without any difficulty. This was the case with all of them, as will be shown hereafter.

For my own part, I have no doubt that this has been a great punishment inflicted by God.
Because, as the world was craving after relics, and turning them to a wicked and superstitious
use, it was very likely that God would permit one lie to follow another; for this is the way in
which he punishes the dishonor done to his name, when the glory due to him is transferred
elsewhere. Indeed, the only reason why there are so many false and imaginary relics is, that God
has permitted the world to be doubly deceived and fallen, since it has so loved deceit and lies.

The first Christians left the bodies of the saints in their graves, obeying the universal sentence,
that all flesh is dust, and TO DUST IT MUST RETURN, and did not attempt their resurrection
before the appointed time by raising them in pomp and state. This example has not been followed
by their successors; on the contrary, the bodies of the faithful, in opposition to the command of
God, have been disinterred in order to be glorified, when they ought to have remained in their
places of repose awaiting the last judgment.

They were worshipped; every kind of honor was shown to them, and people put their trust in
such things. And what was the consequence of all this? The devil, perceiving man’s folly, was
not satisfied with having led the world into one deception, but added to it another, by giving the
name of relics of saints to the most profane things. And God punished the credulous by depriving
them of all power of reasoning rightly, so that they accepted without inquiry all that was
presented to them, making no distinction between white or black.

It is not my intention now to discuss the abominable abuse of the relics of our Lord, as well as of
the saints, at this present time, in the most part of Christendom. This subject alone would require
a separate volume; for it is a well-known fact that the most part of the relics which are displayed
every where are false, and have been put forward by impostors who have most impudently
deceived the poor world. I have merely mentioned this subject, to give people an opportunity of
thinking it over, and of being upon their guard. It happens sometimes that we carelessly approve
of a thing without taking the necessary time to examine what it really is, and we are thus
deceived for want of warning; but when we are warned, we begin to think, and become quite
astonished at our believing so easily such an improbability. This is precisely what has taken place
with the subject in question. People were told, “This is the body of such a saint; these are his
shoes, those are his stockings;” and they believed it to be so, for want of timely caution. But
when I shall have clearly proved the fraud which has been committed, all those who have sense
and reason will open their eyes and begin to reflect upon what has never before entered their
thoughts. The limits of my little volume forbid me from entering but upon a small part of what I
would wish to perform, for it would be necessary to ascertain the relics possessed by every place
in order to compare them with each other. It would then be seen that every apostle had more than
four bodies, F128 and each saint at least two or three, and so on. In short, if all the relics were
collected into one heap, the only astonishment would be that such a silly and clumsy imposition
could have blinded the whole earth.

As every, even the smallest Catholic church has a heap of bones and other small rubbish, what
would it be if all those things which are contained in two or three thousand bishoprics, twepty or
thirty thousand abbeys, more than forty thousand convents, and so many parish churches and
chapels, were collected into one mass? F129 The best thing would be not merely to name, but to
visit them.

In this town (Geneva) there was formerly, it is said, an arm of St Anthony; it was kissed and
worshipped as long as it remained in its shrine; but when it was turned out and examined, it was
found to be the bone of a stag. There was on the high altar the brain of St Peter; so long as it
rested in its shrine, nobody ever doubted its genuineness, for it would have been blasphemy to do
so; but when it was subjected to a close inspection, it proved to be a piece of pumice-stone. I
could quote many instances of this kind; but these will be sufficient to give an idea of the
quantity of precious rubbish there would have been found if a thorough and universal
investigation of all the relics of Europe had ever taken place.

Many of those who look at relics close their eyes from superstition, so that in regarding these
they see nothing; that is to say, they dare not properly gaze at and consider what they properly
may be. Thus many who boast of having seen the whole body of St Claude, or of any other saint,
have never had the courage to raise their eyes and to ascertain what it really was. The same thing
may be said of the head of Mary Magdalene, which is shown near Marseilles, with eyes of paste
or wax. It is valued as much as if it were God himself who had descended from heaven; but if it
were examined, the imposition would be clearly detected. F130 It would be desirable to have an
accurate knowledge of all the trifles which in different places are taken for relics, or at least a
register of them, in order to show how many of them are false; but since it is impossible to obtain
this, I should like to have at least an inventory of relics contained in ten or twelve such towns as
Paris, Toulouse, Poitiers, Rheims, etc. If I had nothing more than this, it would form a very
curious collection. Indeed, it is a wish I am constantly entertaining to get such a precious
repertory. However, as this is too difficult, I thought it would be as well to publish the following
little warning, to awaken those who are asleep, and to make them consider what may be the state
of the entire church if there is so much to condemn in a very small portion of it; — I mean, when
people find so much deception in the relics I shall name, and which are far from being the
thousandth part of those that are exhibited in various parts of the world, what must they think of
the remainder moreover, if those which had been considered as the most authentic proved to be
fraudulent inventions, what can be thought of the more doubtful ones? Would to God that
Christian princes thought a little on this subject! for it is their duty not to allow their subjects to
be deceived, not only by false doctrine, but also by such manifest impositions.

They will indeed incur a heavy responsibility for allowing God to be thus mocked when they
could prevent it.

I hope, however, that this litfie treatise will be of general service, by inducing people to think on
the subject; for, if we could have the register of all the relics that are to be found in the world,
men would clearly see how much they had been blinded, and what darkness and folly overspread
the earth.

Let us begin with Jesus Christ, about whose blood there have been fierce disputations; for many
maintained that he had no blood except of a miraculous kind; nevertheless the natural blood is
exhibited in more than a hundred places. They show at Rochelle a few drops of it, which, as they
say, was collected by Nicodemus in his glove. In some places they have phials full of it, as, for
instance, at Mantua and elsewhere; in other parts they have cups filled with it, as in the Church of
St Eustache at Rome.

They did not rest satisfied with simple blood; it was considered necessary to have it mixed with
water as it flowed out of his side when pierced on the cross. This is preserved in the Church of St
John of the Lateran at Rome.

Now, I appeal to the judgment of every one whether it is not an evident lie to maintain that the
blood of Jesus Christ was found, after a lapse of seven or eight hundred years, to be distributed
over the whole world, especially as the ancient church makes no mention of it?

Then come the things which have touched the body of our Lord. Firstly, the manger in which he
was placed at his birth is shown in the Church of Madonna Maggiore at Rome.

In St Paul’s Church there are preserved the swaddling clothes in which he was wrapped, though
there are pieces of these clothes at Salvatierra in Spain. His cradle is also at Rome, as well as the
shirt his mother made for him.

At the Church of St James, in the same city, is shown the altar upon which he was placed at his
presentation in the temple, as if there had been many altars, according to the fashion of the
Popish churches, where any number of them may be erected. This is what they show relating to
the time of Christ’s childhood.

It is, indeed, not worth while seriously to discuss whence they obtained all this trash, so long a
time after the death of Jesus Christ. That man must be of little mind who cannot see the folly of
it? There is no mention of these things in the Gospels, and they were never heard of in the times
of the apostles. About fifty years after the death of Jesus Christ, Jerusalem was destroyed. Many
ancient doctors have written since, mentioning fully the occurrences of their time, even to the
cross and nails found by Helena, but these absurdities are not alluded to. But what is more, these
things were not brought forward at Rome during the days of St Gregory, as may be seen from his
writings; whilst after his death Rome was several times taken, pillaged, and almost destroyed.

Now, what other conclusion can be drawn from these considerations hut that all these were
inventions for deceiving silly folks? This has even been confessed by some monks and priests,
who call them pious frauds, i.e., honest deceits for exciting the devotion of the people.

After these come the relics belonging to the period from the childhood to the death of Jesus
Christ, such as the water pots in which Christ changed water into wine at the marriage feast of
Cana in Galilee.

One would naturally inquire how they were preserved for so long a time? for it is necessary to
bear in mind that they were not discovered until eight hundred or a thousand years after the
performance of the miracle.

I cannot tell all the places where those water pots are shown; I only know that they can be seen at
Pisa, Ravenna, Cluny, Antwerp, and Salvatierra in Spain. F131 At Orleans they have even the
wine which was obtained by that miracle, and once a year the priests there give to those who
bring offerings a small spoonful, saying that they shall taste of the very wine made by our Lord at
the marriage feast, and its quantity never decreases, the cup being always refilled. I do not know
of what date are his shoes, which are preserved in a place at Rome called Sancta Sanctorum, or
whether he had worn them in his childhood or manhood; but this is of little moment, for what I
have already mentioned sufficiently shows the gross imposition of producing now the shoes of
Jesus Christ, which were not possessed by the apostles in their time.

Now, let us proceed to the last supper which Christ had with his apostles.

The table is at St John of the Lateran at Rome; some bread made for that occasion at Salvatierra
in Spain; and the knife with which the paschal lamb was carved is at Treves. Now, it is necessary
to observe that Christ made that supper in a borrowed room, and on going from thence he left the
table, which was not removed by the apostles. Jerusalem was soon afterwards destroyed. How,
then, could the table be found after a lapse of eight hundred years?

Moreover, in the early ages tables were made of quite a different shape to those of our days, for
people then took their repasts in a lying, not in a sitting posture — a circumstance expressly
mentioned in the Gospels. The deceit is therefore quite manifest, without more being added to
prove it.

The cup in which Christ gave the sacrament of his blood to the apostles is shown at Notre Dame
de l’Isle, near Lyons; and there is another in a convent of Augustine monks in the Albigeois; —
which is the true one?

Charles Sigonius, a celebrated historian of our times, says, in his fourth book on Italy, that
Baldwin, second king of Jerusalem, captured in 1101, with the assistance of the Genoese, the
town of Cesarea in Syria, and amongst the spoils taken by his allies was a vessel or cup of
emerald, which was considered to have been made use of by Jesus Christ at his last supper.
“Therefore,” — these are his own words, — “this cup is even now devoutly preserved in the
town of Genoa.”

According to this account, our Lord must have had a splendid service on that occasion; for there
would be as little propriety in drinking from such a costly vessel without having the rest of the
service of a similar description, as there is in some Popish pictures where the Virgin Mary is
represented as a woman with her hair hanging over her shoulders, dressed in a gown of cloth of
gold, and riding on a donkey which Joseph leads by the halter. We recommend our readers to
consider well the Gospel texts relating to this subject.

The case of the dish upon which the paschal lamb was placed is still worse, for it is to be found at
Rome, at Genoa, and at Arles. If these holy relics be genuine, the customs of that time must have
been quite different from ours, because, instead of changing viands as we now do, the dishes
were changed for the same food!

The same may be said of the towel with which Jesus Christ wiped the feet of the apostles, after
having washed them; there is one at Rome at the Lateran, one at Aix-la-Chapelle, and one at St
Corneille of Compiegne, with the print of the foot of Judas Some of these must be false.

But we will leave the contending parties to fight out their own battles, until one of them shall
establish the reality of his case. It appears to me, however, that trying to make people believe that
a towel which Jesus Christ had left in the place where it was used, had in several hundred years
afterwards found its way into Germany and Italy, is nothing better than a gross imposture.

I nearly forgot to mention the bread with which five thousand persons were miraculously fed in
the desert, and of which a bit is shown at Rome, and another piece at Salvatierra in Spain.

The Scripture says that a portion of manna was preserved in remembrance of God having
miraculously fed his people in the desert; but the Gospel does not say a word respecting the
preservation of the fragments of the five loaves for a similar purpose; the subject is not
mentioned in any ancient history, nor does any ecclesiastical writer speak of it. It is therefore very
easily perceived that the above-mentioned pieces of bread are of modern manufacture.

The principal relics of our Lord are, however, those relating to his passion and death. And the
first of them is the cross. I know that it is considered to be a certain fact that it was found by
Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine; and I know also that some ancient doctors have
written about the manner in which the discovery was certified that it was the true cross upon
which our Lord had suffered. I think, however, that it was a foolish curiosity, and a silly and
inconsiderate devotion, which prompted Helena to seek for that cross. But let us take for granted
that it was a laudable act, and that our Lord had declared by a miracle that it was the real cross,
and let us consider only the state of the case in our own time.

It is maintained undoubiingly that the cross found by Helena is still at Jerusalem, though this is
contradicted by ecclesiastical history, which relates that Helena took a piece of it, and sent it to
her son the emperor, who set it upon a column of porphyry, in the center of a public place or
square, whilst the other portion of it was enclosed by her in a silver case, and intrusted to the
keeping of the Bishop of Jerusalem; consequently, either the before-mentioned statement or this
historical record must be false.

Now let us consider how many relics of the true cross there are in the world. An account of those
merely with which I am acquainted would fill a whole volume, for there is not a church, from a
cathedral to the most miserable abbey or parish church, that does not contain a piece. Large
splinters of it are preserved in various places, as for instance in the Holy Chapel at Paris, whilst
at Rome they show a crucifix of considerable size made entirely, they say, from this wood. In
short, if we were to collect all these pieces of the true cross exhibited in various parts, they would
form a whole ship’s cargo.

The Gospel testifies that the cross could be borne by one single individual; how glaring, then, is
the audacity now to pretend to display more relics of wood than three hundred men could carry!
As an explanation of this, they have invented the tale, that whatever quantity of wood may be cut
off this true cross, its size never decreases. This is, howover, such a clumsy and silly imposture,
that the most superstitious may see through it. The most absurd stories are also told respecting
the manner in which various pieces of the cross were conveyed to the places where they are now
shown; thus, for instance, we are informed that they were brought by angels, or had fallen from
heaven. By these means they seduce ignorant people into idolatry, for they are not satisfied with
deceiving the credulous, by affirming that pieces of common wood are portions of the true cross,
but they pretend that it should be worshipped, which is a diabolical doctrine, expressly reproved
by St Ambrose as a Pagan superstition.

After the cross comes the inscription, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” which was placed
upon it by order of Pilate. The town of Toulouse claims the possession of this relic, but this is
contradicted by Rome, where it is shown in the Church of the Holy Cross. If these relics were
properly examined, it would be seen that the claims of both parties are equally absurd.

There is a still greater contradiction concerning the nails of the cross. I shall name those with
which I am acquainted, and I think even a child could see how the devil has been mocking the
world by depriving it of the power of discernment on this point. If the ancient writers, such as the
ecclesiastical historian Theodorite, tell the truth (Historic Tripartita, lib. ii.), Helena caused one
of the nails to be set in the helmet of her son Constantine, and two others in the bridle of his
horse. St Ambrose, however, relates this differently, saying that one of the nails was set in the
crown of Constantine, a second was converted into a bridle-bit for his horse, and the third was
retained by Helena. Thus we see that twelve hundred years ago there was a difference of opinion
on this subject, and how can we tell what has become of the nails since that time? Now, they
boast at Milan that they possess the nail which was in Constantine’s bridle; this claim is,
however, opposed by the town of Carpentras. St Ambrose does not say that the nail was attached
to the bridle, but that the bit was made from it, — a circumstance which does not agree with the
claims of Milan or Carpentras. There is, moreover, one nail in the Church of St Helena at Rome,
and another in that of the Holy Cross in the same city; there is a hail at Sienna, and another at
Venice. Germany possesses two, at Cologne and Treves. In France there is one in the Holy
Chapel at Paris, another in the same city at the church of the Carmellies, a third is at St Denis, a
fourth at Bruges, a fifth at the abbey of Tenaille in the Saintonge, a sixth at Dragulgnau, the
whole number making fourteen shown in different towns and countries. F132 Each place
exhibiting these nails produces certain proofs to establish the genuineness of its relic, but all
these claims may be placed on a par as equally absurd.

Then follows the iron spear with which our Saylout’s side was pierced. It could be but one, and
yet by some extraordinary process it seems to have been multiplied into four; for there is one at
Rome, one at the Holy Chapel at Paris, one at the abbey of Tenaille in Saintonge, and one at
Selve, near Bourdeaux.

With regard to the crown of thorns, one must believe that the slips of which it was plaited had
been planted, and had produced an abundaut growth, for otherwise it is impossible to understand
how it could have increased so much.

A third part of this crown is preserved at the Holy Chapel at Paris, three thorns at the Church of
the Holy Cross, and a number of them at St Eustaehe in the same city; there are a good many of
the thorns at Sienna, one at Yicenza, four at Bourges, three at Besangon, three at Port Royal, and
I do not know how many at Salvatierra in Spain, two at St James of Compostella, three at Albi,
and one at least in the following places: — Toulouse, Macon, Charroux in Poitiers; at Cleri, St
Flour, St Maximira in Provence, in the abbey of La Salle at St Martin of Noyon, etc. F133 It must
be observed, that the early church has made no mention of this crown, consequently the root that
produced all these relics must have grown a long time after the passion of our Lord. With regard
to the coat, woven throughout without a seam, for which the soldiers at the cross cast lots, there
is one to be seen at Argenteuil near Paris, and another at Treves in Germany. It is now time to
treat of the “sudary,” about which relic they have displayed their folly even more than in the
affair of the holy coat, for besides the sudary of Veronica, which is shown in the Church of St
Peter at Rome, it is the boast of several towns that they each possess one, as for instance
Carcassone, Nice, Aix-la-Chapelle, Treves, Besangon, without reckoning the fragments to be
seen in various places. F134 Now, I ask whether those persons were not bereft of their senses
who could take long pilgrimages, at much expense and fatigue, in order to see sheets, of the
reality of which there were no reasons to believe, but many to doubt; for whoever admitted the
reality of one of these sudaries shown in so many places, must have considered the restas wicked
impostures set up to deceive the public by the pretense that they were each the real sheet in which
Christ’s body had been wrapped. But it is not only that the exhibitors of this one and the same
relic give each other mutually the lie, they are (what is far more important) positively
contradicted by the Gospel The evangelists who speak of all the women who followed our Lord
to the place of crucifixion, make not the least mention of that Veronica who wiped his face with
a kerchief. It was in truth a most marvellous and remarkable event, worthy of being recorded, that
the face of Jesus Christ was then miraculously imprinted upon the cloth, a much more important
thing to mention than the mere circumstance that certain women had followed Jesus Christ to the
place of crucifixion without meeting with any miracle; and, indeed, had such a miracle taken
place, we might consider the evangelists wanting in judgment in not relating the most important

The same observations are applicable to the tale of the sheet in which the body of our Lord was
wrapped. How is it possible that those sacred historians, who carefully related all the miracles
that took place at Christ’s death, should have omitted to mention one so remarkable as the
likeness of the body of our Lord remaining on its wrapping sheet? This fact undoubtedly
deserved to be recorded. St John, in his Gospel, relates even how St Peter, having entered the
sepulcher, saw the linen clothes lying on one side, and the napkin that was about his head on the
other; but he does not say that there was a miraculous impression of our Lord’s figure upon these
clothes, and it is not to be imagined that he would have omitted to mention such a work of God if
there had been any thing of this kind.

Another point to be observed is, that the evangelists do not mention that either of the disciples or
the faithful women who came to the sepulcher had removed the clothes in question, but, on the
contrary, their account seems to imply that they were left there. Now, the sepulcher was guarded
by soldiers, and consequently the dothes were in their power. Is it possible that they would have
permitted the disciples to take them away as relics, since these very men had been bribed by the
Pharisees to perjure themselves by saying that the disciples had stolen the body of our Lord? I
shall conclude with a convincing proof of the audacity of the Papism Wherever the holy sudary is
exhibited, they show a large sheet with the full-length likeness of a human body on it. Now, St
John’s Gospel, chapter nine-teenth, says that Christ was buried according to the manner of the
Jews; and what was their custom?

This may be known by their present custom on such occasions, as well as from their books,
which describe the ancient ceremony of interment, which was to wrap the body in a sheet, to the
shoulders, and to cover the head with a separate cloth. This is precisely how the evangelist
described it, saying, that St Peter saw on one side the clothes with which the body had been
wrapped, and on the other the napkiu from about his head. In short, either St John is a liar, or all
those who boast of possessing the holy sudary are convicted of falsehood and deceit. F135 In the
Church of St John of the Lateran at Rome, they show the reed which the soldiers, mocking Christ
in the house of Pilate, placed in his hand, and with which they afterwards smote him on the head.
In the Church of the Holy Cross at Rome they show the sponge which was filled with vinegar,
and given him to drink during his passion. Now, I would ask, how were these things obtained?
They must have been formerly in the hands of infidels. Could they have delivered them up to the
apostles to be made relics of? or did they preserve them themselves for future times?

What a sacrilege to make use of the name of Jesus Christ in order to invent such absurd fables!

And what can we think of the pieces of silver received by Judas for betraying our Savior? The
Gospel says that he returned this money to the chief priests, who bought with it the potter’s field
for a burial-place for strangers.

By what means were these pieces of silver obtained from the seller of that field? It would be too
absurd to maintain that this was done by the disciples of Jesus Christ; and if we are told that they
were found a long time afterwards, it will be still less probable, as this money must have passed
through many hands. It is therefore necessary to prove, that either the person who sold his field
did so for the purpose of obtaining the silver pieces in order to make relics of them; or that he
afterwards sold them to the faithful. Nothing of this kind has ever been mentioned by the
primitive church. F136 To the same class of impositions belong the steps of Pilate’s tribunal,
which are exhibited in the Church of St John of the Lateran, as well as the column to which
Christ was fastened during the flagellation, shown in the Church of St Prasedo in the same city,
besides two other pillars, round which he was conducted on his way to Calvary. From whence
these columns were taken it is impossible to conjecture. I only know that the Gospel, in relating
that Jesus Christ was scourged, does not mention that he was fastened to a column or post. It
really appears as if these impostors had no other aim than to promulgate the most fallacious
statements, and, indeed, they carried this to such a degree of extravagance, that they were not
ashamed to make a relic of the tail of the ass upon which our Lord entered into Jerusalem, which
they show at Genoa. F137 One really cannot tell which is most wonderful, — the folly and
credulity of those who devoutly receive such mockeries, or the boldness of those who put them

It may be said that it is not likely all these relics should be preserved without some sort of correct
history being kept of them. To this I reply that such evident falsehoods can never bear the
slightest resemblance to truth, how much soever their claims may be supported by the names of
Constantine, Louis IX, or of some popes; for they will never be able to prove that Christ was
crucified with fourteen nails, or that a whole hedge was used to plait his crown of thorns, — that
the iron of the spear with which his side was pierced, had given birth to three other similar pieces
of iron, — that his coat was multiplied threefold, — and that from his single sudarium a number
of others have issued, or that Jesus Christ was buried in a manner different from that describpd in
the Gospels.

Now, if I were to show a piece of lead, saying, “This piece of gold was given me by a certain
prince,” I should be considered a madman, and my words would not transmute the lead into gold.

Thus it is precisely when people say, “This thing was sent over by Godfrey de Bouillon after his
conquest of Judea.” Our reason shows us that this is an evident lie. Are we then to be so much
imposed upon by words as to resist the evidence of our senses?

Moreover, in order to show how much reliance may be placed on the statements which are given
about these relics, we must remark that those considered the principal and most authentic at
Rome have been, according to those accounts, brought thither by Vespasian and Titus. Now, this
is such a clumsy fabrication, — they might just as well tell us that the Turks went to Jerusalem in
order to carry off the true cross to Constantinople!

Vespasian conquered and ravaged a part of Judea before he was elected emperor, and his son
Titus completed that conquest by the capture and destruction of Jerusalem. They were both
Pagans, and had no more regard for Christ than if he had never existed on earth. Consequently to
maintain that Vespasian and Titus carried off the above-mentioned relics to Rome, is even a
more flagrant falsehood than the stories about Godfrey of Bouillon and St Louis.

Moreover, it is well known that the times of St Louis were very superstitious. That monarch
would have accepted as a relic, and worshipped, any thing that was represented to him as having
belonged to the Holy Virgin; and, indeed, King Louis and other crusaders sacrificed their bodies
and their goods, as well as a great portion of their country’s substance, merely to bring back with
them heaps of foolish trifles, having been taught to consider them as the most precious jewels of

It must be here mentioned, that in Greece, Asia Minor, and other eastern countries, people show,
with full assurance, counterpart old rubbish, which those poor idolaters imagine they possess in
their own country.

How are we to judge between the two contending parties? One party says that these relics were
brought from the East; but the Christians now inhabiting those lands maintain that the same relics
are still in their possession, and they laugh at our pretensions. How can it be decided betwixt
right and wrong without an inquiry, which will never take place?

Methinks the best plan is to let the dispute rest as it is, without caring for either side of the

The last relics pertaining to Jesus Christ are those which relate to the time after his resurrection,
mas, for instance, a piece of broiled fish which St Peter presented to him on the sea-shore. This
fish must have been strongly spiced, and prepared in some extraordinary manner, to be preserved
for so long a period. But, seriously, is it likely that the apostles would have made a relic of a
portion of the fish which they had prepared for their dinner?

Indeed, I think that whoever will not perceive this to be an open mockery of God, deserves not to
be reasoned with.

There is also the miraculous blood which has flowed from several hosts, — as, for instance, in
the Churches of St Jean-en-Greve at Paris, at St Jean d’Angeli at Dijon, and in many other
places. They show even the penknife with which the host at Paris was pierced by a Jew, and
which the poor Parisians hold in as much reverence as the host itself. For this they were well
blamed by a Roman Catholic priest, who declared them to be worse than the Jews, for
worshipping the knife with which the precious body of Christ was pierced. I think we may apply
this observation to the nails, the spear, and the thorns; and consequently those who worship those
instruments used at our Lord’s crucifixion are more wicked than the Jews who employed them
for that purpose.

There are many other relics belonging to this period of our Lord’s history, but it would be tedious
to enumerate them all. We shall therefore pass them over, and say a few words respecting his
images, — not the common ones made by painters and carvers, but those considered as actual
relics, and held in particular veneration. Some of these images are believed to have been made in
a miraculous manner, like those shown at Rome in the Church of the blessed Virgin, iu Portici, at
St John of the Lateran, at Lucca, and other places, and which they pretend were painted by angela
I think it would be ridiculous to undertake a serious refutation of these absurdities, the profession
of angels not being that of painters, and our Lord Jesus Christ desired to be known and
remembered otherwise than by carnal images.

Eusebius, it is true, relates, in his Ecclesiastical History, that our Lord sent the likeness of his
face to King Abgarus; F138 but the authenticity of this account has no better proof than that of a
fairy tale; yet, supposing it were true, how came this likeness to be found at Rome (out of
Abgarus’ possession), where people boast to have it now? Eusebius does not mention where it
was in his time, but he merely relates the story as having happened a long time before he wrote;
we must therefore suppose that this image reappeared after a lapse of many centuries, and came
from Edessa to Rome.

They have forged not only images of Christ’s body, but also copies of the cross. Thus they
pretend at Brescia to have the identical cross which appeared to the Emperor Constantine. This
claim is, however, stoutly opposed by the town of Constance, whose inhabitants maintain that the
above-mentioned cross is preserved in their town, and not at Brescia.

But let us leave the contending parties to settle this point between themselves, though it would be
easy enough to show the absurdity of their pretensions, because the cross which, according to
some writers, appeared to Constantine, was not a material cross, but simply a vision.

There are several carved images, as well as paintings, of Jesus Christ to which many miracles are
attributed. Thus the beard grows on the crucifixes of Salvatierra and Orange, and other images
are said to shed tears. These things are too absurd for serious refutation, and yet the deluded
world is so infatuated that the majority put as much faith in these as in the Gospels. The Blessed
Virgin. — The belief that the body of the Virgin was not inferred on earth, but was taken to
heaven, has deprived them of all pretext for manufacturing any relics of her remains, which
otherwise might have been sufficiently abundant to fill a whole churchyard; F139 yet in order to
have at least something belonging to her, they sought to indemnify themselves for the absence of
other relics with the possession of her hair and her milk. The hair is shown in several churches at
Rome, and at Salvatierra in Spain, at Magon, St Flour, Cluny, Nevers, and in many other towns.
With regard to the milk, there is not perhaps a town, a convent, or nunnery, where it is not shown
in large or small quantitiea Indeed, had the Virgin been a wet-nurse her whole life, or a dairy, she
could not have produced more than is shown as hers in various parts. F140 How they obtained all
this milk they do not say, and it is superfluous here to remark that there is no foundation in the
Gospels for these foolish and blasphemous extravagances.

The Virgin’s wardrobe has produced an abundant store of relics. There is a shirt of hers at
Chartres, which has been fully celebrated as an idol, and there is another at Aix-la-Chapelle.

I do not, know how these things could have been obtained, for it is certain that the Apostles and
first Christians were not such triflers as to amuse themselves in this way. It is, however,
sufficient for us to consider the shape of these articles of dress, in order clearly to see the
impudence of their exhibitors. The shirt at Aix-la-Chapelle is a long clerical surplice, shown
hanging to a pole, and if the Blessed Virgin had been a giantess, she would still have felt much
inconvenience in wearing so large a garment.

In the same church they preserve the shoes of St Joseph, which could only fit the foot of a little
child or a dwarf. The proverb says that liars need good memories, so as not to contradict their
own sayings. This rule was not followed out at Aix-la-Chapelle, otherwise care would have been
taken to maintain a better proportion of size between the shoes of the husband and the shirt of the
wife. And yet these relics, so devoid of all appearance of truth, are devoutly kissed and venerated
by crowds!

I know of only two of her head-dresses; one is at the abbey of St Maximilan at Treyes, and the
other is at Lisio in Italy. They may be considered quite as genuine as the Virgin’s girdle at Prato
and at Montserrat, as her slipper at St Jaqueme, and as her shoe at St Flour.

Now, those who are at all conversant with this subject well know that it was not the custom of
the primitive church to collect shoes and stockings, etc., for relics, and also that for five hundred
years alter the death of the Virgin Mary there was never any talk of such things. It really seems as
if these well-known facts would be sufficient to prove the absurdity of all these relics of the
Virgin; but her worshippers, not merely satisfied with the articles I have just enumerated,
endeavor to ascribe to her a love of dress and finery. A comb of hers is shown in the church of St
Martin at Rome, and another in that of St Jean-le-Grand at Besancon, besides others that may be
shown elsewhere. Now, if this be not a mockery of the Virgin, I do not know what that word
implies. They have not forgotten her wedding-ring, which is shown at Perusa.

As it is now the custom for a husband to present his bride with a ring at the marriage ceremony,
they imagined it to be so in the time of the Virgin, and in her country, consequently, they show a
splendid ring as the one used at her wedding, forgetting the state of poverty in which she lived.

Rome possesses four of her gowns, in the churches of St John of the Lateran, St Barbara, St
Maria supra Minervam, and St Blasius; whilst at Salvatierra they boast of having fragments of a
gown belonging to her.

I have forgotten the names of other towns where similar relics are shown.

F141 It is sufficient to examine the materials of these vestments in order to see the falsehood of
their claims, for their exhibitors give to the Virgin the same sort of robes with which they dress
up her images.

It remains now to speak of her images — not of the common ones, of which there are so many
everywhere, but of those which are distinguished from the rest by some particular claims. Thus at
Rome there are four, which they pretend were painted by St Luke the evangelist. The principal
one is in the church of St Augustine, which they say St Luke had painted for his own use; he
always carried it about his person, and it was buried with him. Now, is it not a downright
blasphemy to turn thus a holy evangelist into a perfect idolater? And what reason had they for
believing that St Luke was a painter? St Paul calls him a physician. I do not know from whence
they obtained this notion; but supposing it was so, is it possible to admit that he would have
painted the Virgin for the same purpose as the Pagans did a Jupiter, a Venus, or any other idol?

It was not the custom of the primitive Christians to have images, and it only became so a long
while afterwards, when the Church was corrupted by superstition. Moreover, the whole world is
filled with representations of the Blessed Virgin, which are said to have been painted by the same
evangelist. F142 I shall not say any thing about St Joseph, whose shoes at Aix-la-Chapelle I have
already mentioned, and whose other similar relics are preserved in many places. F143 ST

It may be supposed that I am joking when I speak of the relics of an angel, considering how
absurd and ridiculous it is to do so, yet, although the hypocrites certainly know this well, they
have made use of the name of St Michael to delude the ignorant and foolish; for they show at
Carcassone his falchion, which looks like a child’s dagger, and his shield, which is no larger than
the knob of a bridle. Is it possible for man or woman to exist who can believe such mockery?
F144 It is indeed a blasphemy, under a garb of devotion, against God and his angels. The
exhibitors of the above-mentioned relics endeavor to support their imposture by the testimony of
Scripture that the archangel Michael cornbated with Satan; but if he was conquered by the sword,
it would at least have been one of a different size and calibre than the toy to which I have
alluded. People must, however, be very silly to believe that the war waged by angels and the
faithful against the devil is a carnal encounter, fought with material weapons. But as I said
before, at the commencement of this treatise, the world has rightly deserved to be led astray into
such absurdities, for having lusted after idols, and worshipped them instead of the living God.

St. John the Baptist.

Proceeding in due order, we must now treat of St John the Baptist, who, according to the
evangelical history — i, e., God’s Word of Truth — was, after being beheaded, buried by his
disciplea Theodoret, the eminent chronicler of the Church, relates that his grave was at Sebaste, a
town in Syria, and that some time after his burial the grave was opened by the Pagans, who burnt
his bones and scattered their ashes in the air. Eusebius adds, however, that some men from
Jerusalem, who were present on the occasion, secretly took a little of these ashes and carried
them to Antioch, where they were buried in a wall by Athanasius.

With regard to his head, Sosomen, another chronicler, relates that it was carried to
Constantinople by the Emperor Theodosius; therefore, according to these ancient historians, the
whole body of John the Baptist was burnt with the exception of his head, and the ashes were all
lost excepting the small portion secretly taken away by the hermits of Jerusalem. Now, let us see
what remains of the head are extant.

The face is shown at Amiens, and the mask which is there exhibited has a mark above the eye,
caused, they say, by the thrust of a knife, made by Herodias. Amiens’ claim to this relic is,
however, disputed by the inhabitants of St John d’Angeli, who show another face of St John.

With regard to the rest of the head, its top, from the forehead to the back part, was at Rhodes, and
I suppose must now be at Malta, at least the knights boast that the Turks had restored it to them.
The back of the head is at St John’s Church at Nemours, the brains at Nogent le Rotrou, a part of
the head is at St Jean Maximin, a jaw is at Besangon, a portion of a jaw is at St John of the
Lateran, and a part of the ear at St Flour in Auvergne.

All this does not prevent Salvatierra from possessing the forehead and hair; at Noyon they have a
lock of the hair, which is considered to be very authentic, as well as that at Lucca, and many
other places.

Yet in order to complete this collection, we must go to the monastery of St Sylvester at Rome,
where the whole and real head of St John the Baptist will be shown to us.

Poets tell us a legend about a king of Spain who had three heads; if our manufacturers of relics
could say the same of St John the Baptist, it would greatly assist their lies; but as such a fable
does not exist, how are they to get out of this dilemma? F145 I shall not press them too hard by
inquiring how could this head be so divided and distributed, or how have they procured it from

I shall merely observe, that either St John must have been a miracle, or that those who possess so
many parts of his head are a set of the most audacious cheats.

What is more than this, they boast at Sienna of possessing an arm of that saint, which is contrary,
as we have already said, to the statements of all the ancient historians; and yet this fraud is not
only suffered, but even approved of, for in the kingdom of Antichrist nothing is too bad which
can serve to keep people in a state of superstition.

Another fable has been invented respecting St John the Baptist. When his body was burnt, they
say that the finger with which he had pointed out our Lord Jesus Christ had remained whole and
uninjured by the fire. Now this story may easily be refuted by the ancient historians, because
Eusebius and Theodoret distinctly state that the body had already become a skeleton when the
Pagans burnt it; and they certainly would not have omitted the relation of such a miracle in their
histories if there had been any foundation for it, having been but too eager to narrate such events
even as are quite frivolous. But supposing that this miracle had really taken place, let us seek
where this finger is now to be found. There is one at Besancon in the Church of St John the.
Great, a second at Toulouse, a third at Lyons, a fourth at Florence, and a fifth at St Jean des
Aventures, near Macon. Now I request my readers to examine this subject, and to judge for
themselves whether they can believe, that whilst St John’s finger, which, according to their own
tradition, is the only remainder of his body, is at Florence, five other fingers can be found in
sundry other places, or, in short, that six are one, and one is six. I speak, however, only of those
that have come to my knowledge; but I make no doubt, if a careful inquiry were made, that one
might discover half a dozen more of St. John’s fingers, and many pieces of his head, besides
those I have enumerated. F146 There are many relics of another kind shown as having belonged
to St John the Baptist; as, for instance, one of his shoes is preserved in the Church of the
Carthusians at Paris. It was stolen about twelve years ago; but it was very soon replaced by that
sort of miracle never likely to cease so long as there are shoemakers in the world.

At St John of the Lateran, at Rome, they boast of having his haircloth mentioned in the Gospels.
The Gospel speaks of his raiment of camel’s hair, but they endeavor to convert it into a
horse-hair garment. F147 They have also at the same church the altar before which he prayed in
the desert, as if altars were in those days erected on every occasion and in every place. I wonder,
indeed, that they have not ascribed to him the saying of the mass.

At Avignon they show the sword with which he was beheaded, and at Aix-la-Chapelle the sheet
which was spread under him at that time. Is it not absurd to suppose that the executioner would
spread a sheet under one whom he was about to kill?

But admitting that this should be the case, how have they obtained these two objects? Is it likely
that the man who put him to death, whether a soldier or executioner, should have given away his
sword and the sheet we have mentioned, in order to be converted into relics?

St. Peter and St. Paul

It is now time to speak of the apostles, and I shall begin with St Peter and St Paul. Their bodies
are at Rome; one part of them in the church of St Peter, and the other in that of St Paul. We are
told that St Sylvester weighed their bodies in order to divide them into equal parts. Both their
heads are preserved also at Home in St John of the Lateran. Besides the two bodies we have just
mentioned, many of their bones are to be found elsewhere, as at Poitiers they have St Peter’s jaw
and beard. At Treves there are several bones of the two apostles. At Argenton in Berri they have
St Paul’s shoulder, and in almost every church dedicated to these apostles there will be found
some of their relics. At the commencement of this treatise I mentioned that St Peter’s brains,
which were shown in this town (Geneva), were found on examination to be a piece of pumice
stone, and I have no doubt that many of the bones considered to belong to these two apostles
would turn out to be the bones of some animal.

At Salvatierra they have St Peter’s slipper. I do not know what shape it is, or of what material it
is made; but I conclude it to be similar to the slippers of the same apostle shown at Poitiers, and
which are made of satin embroidered with gold. It would seem as if they had made him thus
smart after his death as a compensation for the poverty which he suffered during his lifetime.
Their bishops look now so showy in their pontificals, that no doubt it would be thought
derogatory to the apostles’ dignity if they were not dressed out in the same style. They take,
therefore, figures which they gild and ornament all over, and name them as St Peter or St Paul,
forgetting that it is well known what was the condition of these apostles whilst in this life, and
that they wore the raiments of the poor.

They show also at Rome St Peter’s episcopal chair and his chasuble, as if the bishops of that age
had thrones to sit upon. The bishops then were engaged in teaching, consoling, and exhorting
their flocks both in public and private, setting them an example of true humility, but not teaching
them to set up idols, as is done by those of our day. With regard to his chasuble, I must say that it
was not then the custom to put on disguises, for farces were not at that time performed in the
churches as they are now. Thus, to prove that St Peter had a chasuble, it is necessary to show in
the first place that he had played the mountebank, as the priests do now whenever they intend to
serve God.

It is, however, no wonder that they have given him a chasuble since they have assigned an altar to
him, there being no more truthful foundation for the one than for the other. It is well known what
kind of mass was said at that time. The apostles simply celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and this
requires no altar; but as to the celebration of the mass, it was then not heard of, nor was it
practiced for a long time afterwards. F148 It is, therefore, evident that those who invented all
these relics never expected contradiction, or they would not have devised such audacious
falsehoods The authenticity of St Peter’s altar at Rome (which I have just mentioned) is denied
by Pisa, that town pretending to possess the real ona The least objectionable of St Peter’s relics is
undoubtedly his staff, it being most probable that he had made use of one during his travels, but
unfortunately there are two of them at Cologne and Treyes, each town, claiming exclusive
possession of the identical one. F149 OTHER APOSTLES.

We shall speak of the rest of the apostles together, in order to get quicker over the matter, and we
will relate, in the first place, where their whole bodies are to be found, that our readers, by
comparison, may be able to form their own opinions on the subject. All know that the town of
Toulouse boasts of possessing the bodies of six, namely, St James the Major (brother of St John),
St Andrew, St James the Minor, St Philip, St Simeon, and St Jude. At Padua they have the body
of St Matthias, at Salerno that of St Matthew, at Orconna that of St Thomas, in the kingdom of
Naples that of St Bartholomew.

Now, let us reckon up those apostles who possess two or three bodies. St Andrew has a duplicate
at Amalfi, St Philip and St James the Minor both have duplicates at Rome, ad sanctos Apostolos,
St Simeon and St Jude the same in St Peter’s Church. St Bartholomew enjoys an equal privilege
at Rome, in the church bearing his name. Here we have enumerated six of them, each provided
with two bodies, and St Bartholomew has an additional skin into the bargain, which is shown at
Pisa. F150 St Matthew, however, outrivals them all, for besides the body at Padua, which we
have before mentioned, he has another at Rome in the church of St Maria Maggiore, a third at
Treves, and an additional arm at Rome. F151 It is true that the bits and scraps of St Andrew’s
body, scattered in various places, counterbalance, in some measure, the superiority of St
Mattbias; for he has at Rome, in St Peter’s Church, a head, and a shoulder in that of St
Chrysostom, an arm at St Esprit, a rib at St Eustache, I do not know how many bones at St
Blaise, and a foot at Aix in Provence.

Now, as St Bartholomew has left his skin at Pisa, so he has left there a hand; at Treves he has
also some bones, of which I forget the number; at Frejus a finger, and at Rome there are other of
his bones; so that, after all, he is not the poorest of the apostles, others not having such a number
of relica St Matthew and St Thomas are the poorest of all. The first has only, besides his body at
Salerno, which we have mentioned, some bones at Treves, an arm in the church of St Mafia at
Rome, and in that of St Nicolas his head, though it may be that other of his relics may have
escaped my knowledge, which would be no wonder, for who is not confused with this ocean of
impostures? F152 As they pretend, in their tales, that the body of St John the Evangelist
disappeared immediately after it was deposited in the grave, so they callnot produce any of his
bones, and they therefore sought for a compensation amongst his clothing, etc. Thus they show at
Bologna the cup from which he was forced to drink poison by order of the Emperor Domitian.
Probably owing to some wonderful process of alchemy, the same cup exists also in the church of
St John of the Lateran at Rome.

They have also his coat, and the chain with which he was bound when brought from Ephesus to
Rome, as well as the oratory at which he used to pray when in prison. F153 ST ANNA.

We must now hurry on, or we shall never quit this labyrinth. We will, therefore, only briefly
mention the relics of those saints who were our Lord’s contemporaries, and then proceed to those
of the martyrs, etc., leaving our readers to form their own conclusions from these brief sketches.

St Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin, has a whole body at Apt in Provence, and another at
Notre Dame de l’Isle at Lyona She has a head at Treves also, a second at Duren near Cologne,
and a third at a town called after her name in Thuringhia. I shall not speak of her other relics
shown in more than a hundred different placea I remember that I myself kissed one of her relics,
kept at the abbey of Orcamps near Noyon, on the occasion of a grand festival held in its honor.

Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Etc.

Lazarus has, to my knowledge, three bodies, at Marseilles, Autun, and Avalon. A protracted
lawsuit took place between the two last-named towns concerning the validity of their respective
claims to the possession of the real Body of this saint. Yet after an immense expense, both parties
may be said to have gained their suit, for neither forfeited its title to ownership. With regard to
Mary Magdalene, she owns but two bodies, one at Auxerre, and another of very great celebrity,
with its head detached, at St Maximin, in Provence.

Of their numerous relics scattered over the world I shall not speak. I would merely inquire
whether Lazarus and his sisters ever went to preach in France; for those who have read the
accounts given by ancient historians of those times cannot fail to be convinced of the folly of this
fable. F154 St. Longinus, and the Three Wise Men, or Kings.

The individual who pierced the side of our Lord on the cross has been canonized under the name
of St Longinus, and after having thus baptized him, they have bestowed upon him two bodies,
one of which is at Mantua, and the other at Notre Dame de l’Isle at Lyons. F155 The same has
been done with the wise meu who came to worship our Lord at the nativity. In the first place they
settled their number, telling us that there were three. Now the Gospel does not mention how
many were present, and some eminent ecclesiastical writers have maintained their number to
have been fourteen, as mentioned for instance in that imperfect commentary on St Matthew
which is ascribed to Chrysostom.

Moreover, the Gospel calls them wise men, but they have elevated them to the dignity of kings,
without bestowing on them, however, either kingdoms or subjects. Finally, they have been
baptized under the names of Balthszar, Melchior, and Gaspar. Now, supposing we concede to
them these fables, frivolous as they are, it is certain that the wise men returned to the east, for the
Gospel informs us of this, and we may conclude that they died in their native land, there being no
reason for thinking otherwise.

Now, who transferred their bodies to the west, for the purpose of preserving them as relics. It
would be quite ridiculous, however, for me to attempt seriously to refute such a palpable
imposture. Let Cologne and Milan, both of which towns pretend to possess relics of these these
men, or kings, decide this question between themselves. F156 ST DIONUSIUS.

St Dionysius is considered to be one of the most celebrated of ancient martyrs, as a disciple of
the apostles, and as the Evangelist of France.

Occupying such high rank, it is therefore very natural that his relics should be so liberally
dispersed; his whole bodies are, however, only preserved at the Abbey of St Denis in France, and
at Ratisbon in Germany. About a century ago Ratisbon instituted a lawsuit at Rome to prove that
the body in its possession was truly that of the saint, and the justice of the claim was established
by a decision of the Papal Court, delivered in the presence of the French Ambassador. And yet,
any one so bold as to dare to assert at St Denis that theirs was not the real body would run the
risk of being stoned for blasphemy; whilst those who oppose the claim of Ratisbon are
considered as heretics, rebellious to the decision of the Holy See. F157 ST STEPHEN.

The whole body of St Stephen is at Rome, his head is at Aries, and his bones are in more than
three hundred places; and the Papists, as if to show themselves to be the partisans of those who
murdered him, have canonized the stones with which he was killed.

It may be asked how these stones were obtained, but to my mind this would be a foolish question,
as stones may be picked up anywhere, without incurring any trouble or expense in their transport.
These stones are shown at Florence, at the convent of theAugustine monks at Arles, and at Vigan
in Languedoc, etc.

Whoever will close his eyes and allow his understanding to be set aside, may believe that these
are the identical stones with which St Stephen suffered martyrdom, but whoever will exert his
reason a little cannot but laugh at this imposition. The Carmelite monks of Poitiers discovered
some of these stones only fourteen years ago, to which they ascribed the virtue of assisting
women in the pains of travail; but the Dominican monks, from whom a rib of St Margarita which
possessed the same virtue had been stolen, were very indignant, and raised a great outcry at the
deception practiced by the Carmelites, but the latter gained the body by firmly maintaining their

The Holy Innocents

It was not at first my intention to mention the Holy Innocents, for if I were to enumerate a whole
army of their relics, it might always be said to me in reply that history is not contradicted by that,
as their number has never been mentioned to us. I shall not dwell, therefore, upon their multitude,
merely observing that they are to be found in every part of the world. I would ask, however, how
it came to pass that their graves were discovered so long after their massacre, since they were not
considered as saints when their murder by Herod took place?

And then, how were these numerous bodies conveyed to the many places where they are now to
be seen To these questions but one answer can be given — “All this occurred five or six hundred
years after their death.”

How can any but idiots believe such things?

But supposing even that some of their bodies had really been discovered, how came so large a
number of them to be transported to France, Italy, and Germany, and to be distributed amongst so
many towns situated so far apart? This can only be a wholesale deception.

St. Gervasius and St. Protasius.

The sepulchres of these two saints were discovered at Milan in the time of St Ambrose, as
testified by him. This fact is confirmed also by the evidence of St Jerome, St Augustine, and
several others; consequently Milan maintains its possession of the real bodies of these saints.

Nevertheless, they are likewise to be seen at Brissach in Germany, and in the Church of St Peter
at Besangon, besides an immense number of different parts of their bodies scattered throughout
the land, so that each of them must have had at least four bodies.

St. Sebastian

This saint, from the wonderful power his remains possessed of curing the plague, was put into
requisition and more sought after than many of his brother saints, and no doubt this popularity
was the cause of his body being quadrupled. One body is in the church of St Lawrence at Rome;
a second is at Soissons; the third at Piligny, near Nantes, and the fourth at his birth-place, near
Narbonne. Besides these, he has two heads at St Peter’s at Rome, and at the Dominican church at
Toulouse. The heads are, however, empty, if we are to believe the Franciscan monks of Angers,
as they pretend to possess the saints brains. The Dominicans of Angers possess one of his arms,
another is at St Sternin, at Toulouse, a third at Case Dieu in Auvergne, and a fourth at
Montbrisson. We will pass over the small fragments of his body, which may be seen in so many

They did not rest satisfied with this multiplication of his body and separate limbs, but they
converted into relics the arrows with which he was killed. One of these is shown at Lambese in
Provence, another is in the Augustine convent at Poitiers, and there are many others in different

St. Anthony

A similar reason has bestowed on St Anthony the advantage of multiplication of his remains, he
being considered as an irrascible saint, burning up all those who incur his displeasure; and this
belief caused him to be dreaded and reverenced. Fear creating devotion, and producing also a
universal desire to possess his relics, on account of the profits and advantages to be derived
therefrom, Arles therefore had a long and severe contest with Vienne (in France) respecting the
validity of the bodies of this saint possessed by each of these towns.

The issue was the same as in other similar disputes, i.e., matters remained in the same state of
confusion as before; for if the truth had been established, both parties would have lost their

Besides these two bodies, St Anthony has a knee in the Church of the Augustines at Albi, and
several other limbs at Bourg, Macon, Ouroux, Chalons, Besancon, etc.

Such are the advantages of being an object of dread and fear, otherwise this saint might possibly
have been permitted to remain quietly in his grave.

F158 St. Petronilla — St. Helena — St. Ursula — and the Eleven Thousand Virgins.

I must not forget to mention St Petronilla, St Peter’s daughter, who has a whole body at Rome, in
the church dedicated to her father, besides other relics in that of St Barbara. This does not,
however, prevent her from owning another body in the Dominican convent at Mans, which is
greatly venerated for the virtue it possesses of curing fevers St Helena has not been so liberally
provided for. Besides her body at Venice, she has but an extra head in the Church of St Gereon at
Cologme. F159 St Ursula beats her hollow in this respect; for she has a whole body at St Jean
d’Angely, and a head into the bargain at Cologne, besides three separate limbs, and various
fragments at Maas, Tours, and Bergerat. The companions of this saint are called the eleven
thousand virgins, and although this is a respectable number, yet it is still too small, considering
that the remains of these virgins are to be seen everywhere; for besides there being about one
hundred cart-loads of their bones at Cologne, there is hardly a town where one or more churches
have not some relics of these numerous saints. F160 If I was to enumerate all the minor saints I
should enter a labyrinth without possibility of egress. I shall, therefore, rest satisfied with giving
a few examples, leaving my readers to judge from these of the rest. For instance, there are two
churches at Poitiers, one attached to the convent of Selle, and the other dedicated to the saint in
question, between which a great dispute has been going on as to the possession of the real body
of St Hilarion.

The lawsuit upon this point has been suspended for an indefinite time, and meanwhile the
idolaters worship two bodies of one and the same individual.

St Honoratus has a body at Aries, and another at the island of Lerins, near Antibes.

St Giles has a body at Toulouse, and a second in a town bearing his name in Languedoc.

I could quote an infinite number of similar cases. I think that the exhibitors of these relics should
at least have made some arrangement amongst themselves the better to conceal their barefaced
impostures. Something of this sort was managed between the canons of Treves and those of
Liege about St Lainbert’s head. They compounded, for a sum of money, not to show publicly the
head in their possession, in order to avoid the natural surprise of the public at the same relic
being seen in two different towns situated so near to each other. But, as I have already remarked
at the commencement of this treatise, the inventors of these frauds never imagined any one could
be found bold enough to speak out and expose their deceptions.

It may be asked, how it came to pass that these manufacturers of relics, having collected and
forged without any reason all that their imaginations could fancy in any way, could have omitted
subjects pertaining to the Old Testament?

The only reply I can give to this query is, that they looked with contempt on those subjects, from
which theydid not anticipate any considerable gain.

Still they have not entirely despised them, for they pretend to have the bones of Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob, in the church of St Maria supra Minervam, at Rome. They also boast of possessing, at
St John of the Lateran, the ark of alliance, with Aaron’s rod, though the same rod is also at the
Holy Chapel in Paris, whilst some pieces of it are preserved at Salvatierra. Moreover, at
Bordeaux they maintain that St Martial’s rod, which is exhibited in the church of St Severin, is
no other than that of Aaron. It seems, indeed, that they would wish with this rod to perform
another miracle; formerly it was turned into a serpent, whereas now they would convert it into
three different rods! It is very likely that they may have other relics of objects mentioned in the
Old Testament, but the few we have here alluded to show that they have treated them much in the
same style as those belonging to Christian times.

I now beg to remind my readers of what I mentioned at the beginning of this work, that I have
had no commissioners for visiting the numerous churches of the different countries enumerated
by me, nor must my description be taken for a register or inventory of all that can be discovered
respecting relics. I have mentioned about half-a-dozen towns in Germany, but three in Spain I
think, about fifteen in Italy, and between thirty and forty in France, and even of these few
examples I have not related all that I might concerning them. Now, let us only imagine what a
mass might be raised out of all the relics which are to be seen in Christendom, if they were
collected and arranged together in proper order. I speak, however, only of those countries which
we know and frequent; for it is most important to observe that all the relics belonging to Christ
and the apostles which are displayed in the west are also to be seen in Greece, Asia, and all other
countries where Christian Churches are in existence. Now, what are we to say when the Eastern
Christians assert their claims?

If we contradict them, alleging on our part that the body of such a saint was brought to Europe by
merchants, that of another by monks, that of a third by a bishop, that a part of the crown of thorns
was sent to a king of France by an emperor of Constantinople, and another part was carried off in
time of war, and so on of every object of the kind, they would shake their heads, and laugh at us!
How are such differences to be settled? In every doubtful case we can only judge by conjecture,
and, in following this out, the adherents of the Eastern Churches are sure of success, because
their claims are more probable than those of their opponents? It is indeed a difficult point for the
defenders of relics to settle.

Finally, I beseech and exhort, in the name of God, all my readers to listen to the truth now clearly
displayed before them, and to believe that, by God’s especial providence, those who have
endeavored thus to lead mankind astray have been rendered so blind and careless as to neglect a
proper concealment of their deceptions, but that, like Midianites having their eyes put out, they
run one against another, for we all know that they quarrel amongst themselves, and mutually
injure each other. Whoever is not wilfully prejudiced against all reason must certainly be
convinced that the worship of relics, whether true or false, is an abominable idolatry; yet should
not this even be the case with him, he must nevertheless perceive the evident imposture, and
whatever may have been his former devotion to relics, he must lose all courage in kissing such
objects, and become entirely disgusted with them.

I repeat what I said at the commencement of this treatise, that it would be most important to
abolish from amongst us Christians this pagan superstition of canonizing relics, either of Christ
or of his saints, in order to make idols of them; for this is a defilement and an impurity which
should never be suffered in the Church. We have already proved that it is so by arguments, and
also from the evidence of Scripture. Let those who are not yet satisfied look to the practices of
the ancient fathers, and conform to their examples. There are many holy patriarchs, many
prophets, many holy kings, and other saints mentioned in the Old Testament. God ordained at
that time the observance of more ceremonies than are needed now. Even funerals were performed
then with more display than at present, in order to represent symbolically the glorious
resurrection, especially as it had not then been so clearly revealed by the Word of God as it is to

Do we ever read in that book that these saints were taken from their sepulchres as idols? Was
Abraham, the father of the faithful, ever thus raised? Was Sarah ever removed from her grave?
Were they not left in peace, with the remains of all other saints? But what is more conclusive,
was not the body of Moses concealed by God’s will, in such a manner that it never has been or
can be discovered? Has not the devil contended concerning it with the angels, as St Jude says?
Now, what was our Lord’s reason for removing that body from the sight of men, and why should.
the devil desire to have it exhibited to them? It is generally admitted that God wished to put away
from his people of Israel all temptation to commit idolatry, and that Satan desired its introduction
amongst them.

It may be said, however, that the Israelites were inclined to superstition. I ask, how stands the
case now with ourselves? Is there not, without comparison, more perversity in this respect
amongst Christians than there ever was amongst the Jews of old?

Let us call to mind the practice of the early church. It is true that the first Christians were always
anxious to get possession of the bodies of the martyrs, lest they might be devoured by beasts or
birds of prey, and decently to bury them, as we read was the case with the bodies of St John the
Baptist and St Stephen. This solicitude was shown, however, in order to inter them in their
graves, and there to leave them until the day of the resurrection; but they did not expose these
remains to the sight of men for their adoration.

The unfortunate custom of canonising saints was not introduced into the Church until it had
become perverted and profaned, partly by the folly and cupidity of its prelates and pastors, and
partly because they were unable to restrain this innovation, as people were seeking to deceive
themselves by giving their hearts to puerile follies, instead of to the true worship of God. If we
wish, in a direct manner, to correct this abuse, it is necessary to abolish entirely what has been so
badly commenced and established against all reason. But if it is impossible to arrive at once at
such a clear comprehension of this abuse, let people at least have their eyes opened to discern
what the relics are which are presented for their adoration.

This is indeed no difficulty for those who will only exercise their reason, for amongst the
numerous evident impostures we have here mentioned, where may we find one real relic of
which we may feel certain that it is such as is represented?

Moreover, all those that I have enumerated are nothing comparatively to the remainder yet untold
by me. Even whilst this treatise is in the press, I have been informed of many relics not
mentioned in it; and if a general visitation of all existing relics were possible, a hundredfold more
discoveries would be made.

I remember when I was a little boy what took place in our parish. On the festival day of St
Stephen, the images of the tyrants who stoned him (for they are thus called by the common
people) were adorned as much as that of the saint himself. Many women, seeing these tyrants
thus decked out, mistook them for the saint’s companions, and offered the homage of candles to
each of them. Mistakes of this kind must frequently happen to the worshippers of relics, for there
is such confusion amongst them that it is quite impossible to worship the bones of a martyr
without danger of rendering such honors by mistake to the bones of some brigand or thief, or
even to those of a horse, a dog, or a donkey.

And it is equally impossible to adore the ring, the comb, the girdle of the Virgin Mary, without
the risk of adoring instead objects which may have belonged to some abandoned person.

Now, those who fall into this error must do so willingly, as no one can from henceforth plead
ignorance on the subject as their excuse. F161


THE following extract from the Ecclesiastical Gazette of Vienna has been reproduced in an
Extraordinary Supplement of the Allgemeine Zeitung, of Augsburg, for the 11th May 1854. I
subjoin a translation of it in a postscript, as an additional evidence of the persecution to which
the Greek Church united with Rome has been subjected in Russia, and which I mentioned in this
work: — “Spies appointed for this especial purpose transmitted, in their reports to the
Government, lists of such individuals as were suspected to be Catholics at heart; and if all the
exaggerated accounts which had been made of the Spanish Inquisition were true, they would be
thrown into the shade by the proceedings that were adopted against the above-mentioned
individuals. And indeed it is an averred fact, that many of them fell a victim to starvation, blows,
and other cruel treatment. The Catholic inhabitants of Worodzkow were forced with stripes, by
the Governor and his satellites, to sign a voluntary petition, expressing their ardent wish to be
received into the pale of the orthodox Russian Church. The names of those who could not write
were signed by others, and whoever showed the slightest manifestation of his desire to remain a
Catholic, after having performed this voluntary act, was treated as one guilty of high treason. The
same proceedings as at Worodzkow were adopted in a hundred other places, whose vohmtary
petitions were obtained with bloody stripes of the knout. The unfortunate petitioners were, in
order to perform this operation, dragged from their homes, sometimes to a distance of or 20
versts (1 1/2 verst to an English mile), and those who steadfastly refused to sign were treated by
the Russian papas with the utmost cruelty and indignity. They were put into irons, barred up in
cold prisons without any fire, starved, thrown into large tubs filled with an icy and stinking
water, and most mercilessly beaten, so that many, in order to escape from such torments, signed
the voluntary petition, with hearts as bleeding as their bodies, Many succumbed under these
fearful persecutions, which were not much inferior to that which the Christians had suffered
under the reign of Diocletian. The Papa Stratanovich extorted the signatures made by the
feverishly agitated hands of the clerical victims, whilst his lay associate, Waimainich Zokalinski,
performed the same charitable office to other unfortunate individuals. Some of these miserable
persons were reduced by starvation and every kind of ill-treatment to such a condition, that they
were almost unconscious of what they did in signing the voluntary petitions for the reception into
the pale of the Russian Church, all of which were obtained by more or less similar means. “It
appears from a great mass of documentary evidence, containing the names of localities and
persons, that the proselytism of was carried out in the following manner: — Military authorities,
and Russian papas or priests, visited Catholic villages, and having called together the Catholic
peasantry and landowners of the neighborhood, declared that they must join the Russian Church,
throwing into prison those who resisted the summons. In the most part of cases, a petition for this
object was signed by some hired wretches in the name of all the community, of whom many
often knew nothing about this business, but when they behaved as Catholics, they were punished
as guilty of high treason.”

The Allgemeine Zeitung states, in giving this extract from the Ecclesiastical Gazette of Vienna,
that this periodical contains many well-authenticated cases of religious persecution against the
Roman Catholics of Russia; and I have little doubt that if the Protestants of Western Europe had
taken as much pains to ascertain and denounce the persecution of their brethren in the Baltic
provinces of Russia, which I have mentioned on, as is done, be it said to their great honor, by the
Roman Catholics, they would find many acts of persecution directed against the
above-mentioned Protestants, as flagrant as those which have just been described.